Billy Graham Center

What part did the Modesto Manifesto play in the ministry of Billy Graham?

By 1948, Billy Graham was becoming fairly well-known as an evangelist in Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical circles in the United States. He was receiving more and more invitations to hold city-wide evangelistic meetings. However, to many of the general public, evangelism had a bad reputation because of real and alleged misdeeds and corruption on the part of some earlier evangelists. During his meetings in Modesto, California, in November 1948, Graham met with his co-workers and friends George Beverly Shea, Grady Wilson, and Cliff Barrows (at the motel on South Ninth Street where they were staying) to determine what were the most common criticisms of evangelists and how they should organize their own meetings so that they would be above reproach. Among the points they agreed on was that the Graham team would avoid even any appearance of financial abuse, exercise extreme care to avoid even the appearance of any sexual impropriety (from that point on, Graham made it a point not to travel, meet or eat alone with any woman other than his wife Ruth), to cooperate with any local churches that were willing to participate in united evangelism effort, and to be honest and reliable in their publicity and reporting of results.

The so-called Modesto Manifesto was the name they gave among themselves to the principles they decided on and applied in Graham's ministry from that point on. However, there was no formal document. In that sense, the Manifesto does not exist.

Billy Graham in his autobiography, Just as I Am (Harper Collins/Zondervan, 1997), describes the events on pages 127-129. William Martin, in his biography of Graham, a Prophet with Honor/The Billy Graham Story (William Morrow and Company, 1991) also describes the events on pages 106-107.

The meeting of Graham, Wilson, Barrows, and Shea in Modesto was not the kind of event that generates a lot of documents and the Archives does not have any records from it.

Please be aware that the purpose of this page is to provide information on some of the most relevant Archives holdings relating to this often-asked question. Because of staff and time limitations, the BGC archivists can spend no more than a half-hour helping an individual researcher; we have to focus our efforts on gathering the material and making it available. In order to find all the materials in the Archives on this particular topic, you will need to personally go through the guides to the various Archives collections available at this Web site and in the Archives Reading Room in the Billy Graham Center building in Wheaton, Illinois. If your request will take longer than the half hour we can provide, you will either need to come to the Archives yourself to do the necessary research in our collections, arrange for someone to come and do the research for you, or pay to use the Archives' research services.

You can also do further independent searching of the online database to explore what the Archives has on a wide variety of subjects. You will find only a very small sampling of the Archives actual documents on this Web site. Most of our Web pages only describe what is at the Archives in Wheaton. In most cases you must visit the Archives to use our collections, unless a collection (or portion of it) is available through inter-library loan or as a short-term loan for a fee. You may also find it helpful to visit Wheaton College's online catalog to its libraries and archives (including the Billy Graham Center Archives).

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Last Revised: 1/31/07
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Wheaton College 2007